Hello and welcome to another year round-up. 2022 was the first year in two years I did not move! That is a kind of win, maybe. At least some stability if nothing else. My PhD is moving fast, I feel, as I am in the part of it where I need to plan... the rest of it.
Anyways, this blog is about looking backwards, at the year that was. The drill is the same as always, I will be listing the stuff that I watched, read, heard, played, or experienced throughout 2022 that I enjoyed (and remembered to write down on the list). It is in rough chronological order, but only as much as I remember.
Mare of Easttown - Brad Ingelsby [TV Series]
I had an HBO subscription from the holidays and a hankering for some good ol’ detective fiction and this show was right there. This is an American crime show in the modern sense, full of complicated family dynamics and an un-sympathetic-but-relatable main character who knows everybody and everything but is way too tired to be there. Kate Winslet who stars in the main role also produced it and she does an excellent job. Well worth a watch.
Windjammers 2 - Dotemu [Game]
Ok, so the original Windjammers is a very specific kind of thing to people who followed Giant Bomb in a very specific time frame. There was a brief period where that website was OBSESSED with the original Windjammers, a tennis/frisbee mashup for the NeoGeo that is very difficult to play outside an emulator. And it is not a well-known thing so when this sequel was announced it was very surprising. But brought to life by Dotemu and they executed on it pretty well! I’ve never actually played the original windjammers, but this captures the intensity well, with good-feeling mechanics and the tight, hard-to-master, fast-paced action loop. Adding online multiplayer was a must and it is a treat.
Fragments - Bonobo [Music]
Fragments by Bonobo is a fine album. It’s a good Bonobo album, not got much against it but it also didn’t stick around for me too much.
What I do want to talk about is this YouTube video, though. When Bonobo played at the Royal Albert Hall in London, they did something a little special. The Royal Albert Hall has a huge, traditional organ. There is no organ in any part of Bonobo’s album, but apparently, he noticed Anna Lapwood, the resident organist practice one night and organized with her to play a piece. The linked YouTube video is of that performance, of an organ weaved into the track Otomo, from Bonobo’s newest album. And it is so cool. It is almost spiritually powerful when the organ kicks in. I can't imagine what that felt like in the audience. I now want more electronic music played together with a live organ.
Wordle and all the clones [Game]
I don’t think I can say much new about Wordle at this
point. It is always fun when a game completely takes over the world.
I was never a huge fan of the game itself. It’s fine. It's cleverly designed. The more magical thing about it was seeing everyone talk about it every day, see how it became a daily ritual and how such a simple restriction elevated what otherwise would have been a very basic word-puzzle game.
Also, it was funny to see all the clones and deviations that spawned in its wake, as it seemed every possible thing from danish words to movies to games to songs got a “wordle-like” afterwards.
Dr Zukaroff's Testamente - Peter Lund Madsen [Book]
The title is Danish, it means "Dr Zukaroff's Testament"... Well, I guess that was obvious. What is not obvious that it is a book about the brain. I was given this book as a Christmas gift last year, and I was not sure I'd like it, but I did end up taking something away from it! It goes through how the brain works, by first explaining how it developed in animals and then humans, and why it works the way it does. And, as a person who has been thinking a lot about creativity and productivity and how to work with my brain, it was enlightening to see how some of the ideas I had theorized about how it works actually has some scientific grounding.
Destiny 2: The Witch Queen - Bungie [Game]
In 2018, I fell in love with Destiny 2, and when I did, one of the stories I loved involved “Savathûn” as the great villain: A trickster god who tricked the world into summoning a curse on an entire region (that still exists today, perennial games woop). One of Savathûn’s epithets (because Destiny is a game with epithets) is “The Witch Queen”, so when this title was announced, we knew what was going to happen: We were going to confront her. And I was very excited to see what they were going to do. And The Witch Queen is a phenomenal expansion, where Bungie really figured out how to do a single-player campaign in Destiny with a solid story where we do confront the Witch Queen (and yet), and a confident step forward, with an incredible raid to boot. 2022 has been the strongest year of Destiny's storytelling, once again, and they are firing on all cylinders in terms of storytelling, as the gameplay does get a bit more stale, as it does when you've played the same thing for 5 years.
ELDEN RING - From Software [Game]
What is there to say about this game at this point? It’s the game of the year, no bloody question. One of the most impressive games I have ever played. Absolutely jaw-dropping from start to finish.
It is such a triumph in every measurable way. I wrote about the brilliance of its goddamn MAP, and every part of this game shines in this way. Never has an open world felt so exciting to explore, never has a world felt so vast and yet detailed, and this all tied to From Softs combat that feels as good as ever and with storytelling as sharp and vibrant as ever (and probably its most accessible incarnation, too).
This game was a big step in something I hope to
continue see happening, which is a move away from the idea that Fromsoft’s
games are “hard” to the point of being unwelcoming or games about punishing
yourself over and over again. So many people think these games are not for them
because they “are not good enough” to play them. There is something in Elden
Ring for everyone, and it presents a ton of options to help players get through
it—they're just not presented in a way most people are used to. These games got such a rap for being macho
tests of “gamer-skill”, but they’re so much better when removed from that
I say this, knowing I’m a psycho who does like the difficulty. I spent a month on Malenia, a single boss, because I wanted to defeat her the hard way, and I loved every second of it. But I know so many people who have never liked a Dark Souls before and completed and enjoyed Elden Ring. And who beat Malenia on their first few tries because they got help. And I’m happy for them. Everybody should play Elden Ring.
Kingdoms in Colour - Maribou State [Music]
Found this through a random reddit recommendation and it’s been one of my most played background albums this year. Rhythmic, organic beats that nevertheless are electronic and mellow, layered by rich, simple instrumentation that floats between sounding like real instruments and not. Perfect working music, never overwhelms, yet, brilliant and detailed enough that it rewards second listens.
Tracks to give a listen: Kingdom, Turnmills, Part Time Glory. But honestly, the whole album flows, so just stick it on.
The Atlas Six - Olivia Blake [Book]
The Alexandria library never burned down, and six
gifted children are tasked with being in charge of protecting it. A great book
that mixes some of my favorite tropes from magical schools and Danganronpa
(gifted children in an enclosed space). It’s sharp and witty, everyone is horny and constantly in danger. It oozes confidence and swagger at every word.
The sequel came out this year too, but I didn’t get the chance to read it yet. I’m excited, though.
F9 - Justin Lin [Movie]
This movie came out last year but I just got around to it now. The Fast and the Furious movies continue to be great, fun action romps that know exactly what they are and sell the ridiculous premises with Vin Diesel’s stern look in the camera, and it works every time. F9 was exactly what I hoped it would be, and a lot of fun. Justin Lin being back as a director is great. He just gets these movies.
The Last Duel - Ridley Scott [Movie]
somehow missed that Ridley Scott had made another historical epic. I like
Kingdom of Heaven an unwarranted amount, and so I had to watch this too.
And its good! The plot is a well told, if a bit obvious, tale about medieval marriage and power structures between genders. And while you know what is going to happen, it is told well and still works. The three main characters do an excellent job of selling their respective viewpoints and you understand perfectly how the situation ended as it did, even though you feel every part of this situation could have been avoided.
It doesn’t quite feel like its trying to match Scott’s previous epics, but honestly that’s fine. I’m happy with more historical stories that instead of going big and expansive, stay personal and close.
Severance - Dan Erickson [TV Series]
Hooh boy what a show.
Had a friend in a discord server who got everyone else in it to watch this show, and we had a blast watching it asynchronously and talking about it.
This is a sci-fi show that starts off with what seems like a simple yet effective premise about work-life-balance and then it continuously unravels over 10 episodes into something much more. Just, a slowly escalating tension as you slowly begin to understand more and more about the outside world than what the characters are seeing, and it is splendid.
Palaces - Flume [Music]
I was looking forward to a new Flume album with a lot of anticipation. The singles were very solid and on a Coachella live stream he played some unreleased songs from the album, and he played the track we now know as “I Can’t Tell” (link goes to the track, although the livestream was the official feed so the audio was better) . And it starts with a kind of bland pop synth and some okay vocals but it does not feel like anything special. And then it builds innocuously and the drop hits and it explodes. Hearing this abrasive crash of synths for the first time, without being prepared at all, blew my mind.
The whole album is good. It follows Flume’s typical trajectory for me with being a very mixed bag, some great stuff, some stuff I don’t care for at all. Flume continues to be best when he takes straight-forward melodies and matches them with abrasive drums and synths that feel like plastic scraping on metal... in the good way.
Tracks to give a listen: DHLC, Escape, Sirens, and of course, I Can’t Tell.
Hardspace Shipbreaker - Blackbird Interactive [Game]
Been meaning to give this a try and wanted to wait
until it was out of Early Access. And it did so this year!
Hardscape Shipbreaker is a game about breaking down ships one cut at a time. It is, essentially, manual labor turned into a video game. And it’s great. It manages to hit the same kind of therapeutic rhythm you get from doing existing manual labor, that feeling of the brain just executing tasks and doing simple, immediate planning without any other worries.
It is also a great commentary on labor and working under a capitalist hellscape not that different from what we can find today.
H+ - Olivier Orand [Music]
Olivier Orand’s previous album Human under the name Hol Baumann was an album I listened to a lot in undergrad. It was a cool mix of early cyberpunk, machinic industrial landscapes, and ethereal, processed vocals, that was great as working music. He then did not make a full album for many, many years, until now, now rebranded under his name. H+ is not quite Human, and it is oddly a quite similar sound despite being so many years after. But it still works and is still a solid album in the same style.
Tracks to give a listen: The Dawning, Robot, H+.
Drafting in Magic: The Gathering - Wizards of the Coast [Card Game]
I’ve always known how to play Magic (The Gathering, the collectible card game). But I’ve never owned cards nor wanted to spend money on them. But when people around me on campus first started inviting me to come play with their cards and then later asked if I wanted to join a Friday Night Magic, I said, sure. I’ll try it.
What happens at Friday Night Magic (most of the time) is a little different than “just” playing Magic. It is a Draft. Which, if you don’t know is, rather, than coming with a deck of cards and just playing, you first sit down and do a draft, where you open a pack of cards, pick one card, then pass the pack to the left. You then get a new pack from the person on your right, pick a single card from that, and pass it on, and so on. And then you end with a bunch of cards, and you build a quick deck from those, and then play 3 rounds with that deck, against the others who also just did that draft.
And it is, to me, so much more interesting than just playing Magic. Traditional magic is so much about the deckbuilding process, which is both entirely opaque unless you have complete knowledge of all the legal cards, and a question of who has the most money to buy all those cards. In a draft, it is an even playing field, regardless—there is randomness, sure, but it is all up to how well each person deals with that randomness. I’ve realized over time that my brain really loves drafting and is also terrible at it, so I love doing it to slowly learn how to get better.
When you do a Magic draft, you also get to keep all the cards you draft, which means I now am beginning to have a very strange collection of Magic cards, since I don’t do it regularly enough to have any kind of consistency in my card pool. But hey, that’s also kind of fun.
Neon White - Angel Matrix [Game]
“The creator of Donut County is making a what??” That was my reaction when I first saw the trailer for Neon White, a game that seems the diametrical opposite of the cutesy, wholesome Donut County. Neon White is a first-person speedrunning parkour game about going fast, killing demons, and looking stylish while doing so. And then a demo came out and I instantly knew this game was special. A strange marriage of tight parkour mechanics and a cheesy anime-infused visual novel story, that still somehow works. Every level is impeccably designed, with each one including multiple shortcuts and the optional collectible that requires you to completely rethink your resources. It’s extremely clever stuff and it’s a ton of fun.
sons Live Stream - Kashiwa Daisuke and band [Music]
Two years ago, I included the new Kashiwa Daisuke album
“sons” on the end of my list. And I liked it! It’s probably my second favourite
complete Kashiwa Daisuke album, but that is also cheating a little as it is a
single track. However, it is also not a thing I returned to a ton afterwards.
It is just a little too messy for me to find joy in listening to it again and
This year, he released this recorded video of a live concert of sons. Seeing live streams of Kashiwa Daisuke is often a joy because he turns the albums in reverse, back from the orchestral and instrumental recordings that were processed by computers, back out to being an orchestral performance. And this concert is no different. There is a full band of around 10 members, all playing the various parts of the song, while Kashiwa himself is controlling everything on his pc setup.
And this live version makes this album click for me. I
think I listened to this concert about 5-10 times in a few days after it got
uploaded. I love this livemix. It just coheres the entire album
and the live instruments make the incongruous parts fit together and the whole
thing just flows so much better.
It is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I have heard in a long, long time.
(NISEIs Null Signal’s) Netrunner - Null Signal Games [Card Game]
Netrunner is a card game designed in 1996, then published by Fantasy Flight in 2012, but stopped being printed in 2017. It was one of the best card games ever made, but considered a dead game.
I’m here talking about it in 2022, because the people playing it said fuck that, we’re not letting this die. And so a group who are now calling themselves Null Signal Games (previously NISEI) have taken it upon themselves to… make new Netrunner cards. And sell them. And host tournaments. And basically do everything that Fantasy Flight did before them.
Is this legal? Well, it’s not “not” legal. And no one’s stopped them.
It really picked up steam this year with the double-whammy of the excellent Shut Up & Sit Down video and the release of the “Borealis” set, which feels just like a complete new Netrunner set that is completely up to the production standards of the original game (something the earlier NS sets have not quite managed). The game is not just not dead it is perhaps better than it has ever been now. Two years ago it was hard to recommend this game, but now? It is so damn good and I want to play it with everyone.
Netrunner is a cyberpunk card game about a Corporation defending their secret agendas against a hacker (a “runner”) trying to steal them. It is an asynchronous game of subterfuge and raw strength, a duel of blind bluffs, risk management and desperate plays. It is, to me, a much more interesting game than Magic, where every turn feels like a torrent of possibilities.
And it is unbelievably kind and accessible. Instead of Magic’s random packs, you just buy the entire set of cards in Netrunner for $45 and you never have to buy any more cards from that set ever again. Or, you are also completely allowed to just print out the cards yourself on paper and play those—they even allow that at tournaments. And, you can also just play the entire game online, completely for free, at jinteki.net (the interface of which you will need to learn, but it is manageable).
Netrunner was always a great game, and now, for the first time in a long time, it has a spectacular future.
Night of the Coconut - Patrick H. Willems and friends [Movie]
…Why do I only like things that are difficult to explain. Sigh.
Patrick H. Willems is a YouTube essayist. He makes (excellent) essays about movies on YouTube. At some point, he started doing these little
story-skits tied to each essay, with him and his friends as fictional/real
characters telling these micro-stories that eventually began connecting over
time. And over the last couple of years, they have gotten more and more
ambitious, to the point where they developed an entire story arc over a year,
told through these tiny 5-minute vignettes in front of every 40 minute essay.
That’s not what Night of the Coconut is. Night of the Coconut is a MOVIE, they made, as a closing finale of their “season” of story from the last year. And it is a full, feature-length, movie-ass-movie. About an interdimensional coconut taking over the world with the help of Patrick’s evil doppelganger. It’s ridiculous, hilarious, very silly and knows it, full of funny goofs and also a lot of earnest heart and passion and love.
I don’t know if it makes sense to watch without watching the whole season beforehand (but he did upload a supercut of that here). But I also think it works as a stand-alone movie? If you're willing to accept a ridiculous premise. So maybe?
Oh, also, its exclusively on Nebula. So, yeah, this made me sign up for a Nebula account, which I’d been thinking about doing anyway. It’s very cheap, compared to any other streaming service, and I watch a lotta the content that goes up there anyway. I understand that this makes it a harder sell, but at this point it was a no-brainer for me.
Anyways, it was a delight, and one of my favorite internet happenings going on right now.
Multiversus - Player First Games [Game]
Never been much of a Smash person, but this was fun for a spurt over the summer. The two-versus-two setup is a worthwhile twist on the formula and it feels surprisingly good to play for a game that looks way more like an obvious cash-grab than it actually is. The Warner Bros roster works surprisingly well for a smash-like.
The Last Goodbye – ODESZA [Music]
ODESZA came out swinging with their first
single, which shares the title for the album. The Last Goodbye is
probably the best song ODESZA has ever done and this album being the vehicle
for that is enough. Unfortunately, this also means the rest of the album is not
quite as good as the first single, and overall bit of a mixed experience for
me. There are some bangers on there, but also some tracks I have little
interest in hearing again. ODESZA is still straddling a line between making
trap-infused EDM party songs and soft synth pop and they don’t always succeed
in hitting that line well. But when they do—oh man.
The best part was I managed to see them live at the Shoreline Amphitheatre and ODESZA live is an incredible show. They take all their EDM leanings and crank them up to 11 and then add a live horn section and a drum-marching band. Oh, and fireworks. It’s Wild.
Tracks to give a listen: The Last Goodbye (obvs. I don't care who you are, everyone will like this song.), Behind the Sun, Light of Day. (this tracklist tells you a lot about the kind of songs I like from ODESZA)
The Windup Girl - Paolo Bacigalupi [Book]
I’ve known about this book for a long time now, but this summer, as I happened to browse my parents' bookshelves, I stumbled on this just when I was in the mood for some dystopian near-future… cyber..punk? It’s not quite cyberpunk. More… algaepunk? That’s not a term. Now it is. Anyways, the Windup Girl is an incredible book! Incredible world-building that feels well-researched and terribly accurate.
Two Point Campus - Two Point Studios [Game]
Late last year I did a big dive into trying to figure
out if a good school-management game in the vein of Prison Architect, but just
for a school, existed (bonus points for a magic school). And it doesn’t really.
There are a couple of knock-offs and attempts, but I left my search
disappointed. But with this game on the Horizon I hoped this dream could be
It unfortunately does not nail it. It’s cute and is a fun dozen hours but it gets stale quick and the differences between the courses are not substantial enough to make each new school feel like a new problem, but rather a lot of busywork to make sure all your rooms have radiators and posters enough to make your little numbers go up.
IMMORTALITY - Half Mermaid [Game]
After Telling Lies felt mostly like “Her Story but
more”, I was very curious to see where Sam Barlow was going to take his
video-detective format in the future.
I did not expect something like IMMORTALITY.
IMMORTALITY is a game that feels like it does not just take one or two logical steps from Her Story, but explodes the possibility space. It feels like it is reacting to a generation of these types of games that never existed. There are about 3 times when playing that game that I went “Oh, Holy Shit. That’s what’s going on here?!”. Especially the big turn that can happen at any time because of how this game is laid out, is so incredibly haunting my head was spinning the whole day. I could not stop playing this game until I finished it, and when I did it kept roiling around my head even more. So much so that I, several days later, understood something that made me reinterpret the entire plot. It’s just incredible.
It’s not a game for everyone. It’s pretty niche and depending on your tolerance of 60-70s B-movies (and maybe arthouse) will color how much you enjoy it. But damn, if you do, you will love this game.
The Good Detective [TV Series]
House of the Dragon and Rings of Power came out almost
at the same time. So, naturally, what I did, was watch a Korean detective show.
Look, I was feeling the Stranger withdrawal.
The Good Detective is not quite as good as Stranger? But it’s still a lot of fun! I enjoyed it a ton, and it has a great core of characters, and is probably an easier watch for a lotta people than Stranger? Less buy-in, possibly. As the title implies it is about what it means to be a good detective, and the balance between finding the truth at all costs, stopping corruption, or locking up the bad guy (which are not always the same thing).
Nona the Ninth - Tamsyn Muir [Book]
The Locked Tomb series is one of the most fascinating ongoing series of books happening right now. Each book in the series is a continuation of the overarching story, yet each one is a completely new idea that flips the formula of the previous one entirely. The jump from Gideon to Harrow was so jarring it took me a long time to appreciate that second book. This time I was a little more prepared and it also helps that Nona is an intensely likable character from the jump. That this is a strange mix of To Kill a Mockingbird and a political thriller also endeared me. These books are riveting, and you need to be paying complete attention to understand what they’re actually doing. But when you do, they’re really cool.
Everything Everywhere All At Once - The Daniels [Movie]
Everyone Everywhere talked about this movie… all at once. Almost. It certainly felt like it. So I had a decent idea what I was getting into when I started it. It is a multiverse movie that actually uses the concept of the multiverse to say something with it, to talk about the world, and uses it as a literal metaphor for the internet and information overstimulation (and the apathy/nihilism that can bring). And it’s very powerful! This movie is talked about for good reason! It is also a phenomenal family drama that is silly and funny and serious and has some great action set-pieces, while also having a ton of heart. Its message can come off as a little… trite? Simple? But that is kind of the point. Waymond is a phenomenal character.
FFXIV: Shadowbringers - Square Enix [Game]
I’m continuing my slow playthrough of Final Fantasy
XIV and have now played through what used to be considered the high-point of
the story when I started (before Endwalker).
And it is quite something. After Stormblood I was hoping for a shift and that was very much what I got from moment one. The opening to this expansion is super strong with the best tone-setting I’ve seen in this game, still, and while it does sag a bit in the middle, the final act is also just incredible and lands immensely well. The villain is just a treat every time he is on screen and the continued revelations about the state of the world are fascinating and I am excited to see how it all ends.
I have some gripes, still, but enjoying seeing what everyone has praised so much.
Rings of Power - Patrick McKay & John D. Payne [TV Series]
I did get to Rings of Power! I just got a new TV right around the same time and was excited to test it out with this show. And it was definitely worthy of seeing on it, because this show is a looker. It is very pretty. And its visually similar to Lord of the Rings, which might be obvious but it was striking to me at first how this felt noticeably different than other modern fantasy shows like Game of Thrones or The Witcher.
Otherwise, it is… all right. I had an okay time watching it, but it also took me a while to get through it and it has some plot and pacing problems. There are some great moments, but they are a bit spread out and the twists and turns are… just not that interesting, unfortunately. Even still, it was fun to be back in Middle Earth.
A Plague Tale: Requiem - Asobo Studio [Game]
The best shorthand for this game I’ve come up with is “medieval budget Last of Us with rats instead of zombies.” It’s pretty good, and ridiculously pretty, considering the budget, and works well. It does suffer from a big of traditional AAA action adventure puzzles and you have to deal with but it is a pretty fun one of those.
Ctrl Alt Reality – The Glitch Mob [Music]
I had not expected Glitch Mob’s next album was going
to be an old school Chicago-techno infused drum’n’bass set that belongs more in
an underground rave than the big stadiums their previous music has seemed to
settle in. I was thrown for a loop when their first single released, and it
took me a little bit to warm up to it.
And it took all until I watched it live to really like it. I signed up to a secret concert of theirs in San Francisco, where they were going to play their new album before its release, and it was indeed played in an underground basement-turned-rave-club. And in that setting, these songs made so much sense. These are songs meant to trash about to, to let loose to. They are meant to be played loud in a dark room, while banging your head to the beat.
And while it is a much different kind of instrumentation than their previous work, it still maintains some of the Glitch Mob synth quality and attention to detail that I love.
Tracks to listen to: All the People, The Moment, and The Flavor.
House of the Dragon - Ryan J. Condal [TV Series]
I was kind of trepidatious to jump back into Game of
Thrones. The Targaryen subplots were never my favorite and this story’s focus
on them thus seemed like a turn-off. However, I also knew I had to watch it,
just out of being a fantasy-nerd, if nothing else.
And I was pleasantly surprised. This is more of a King’s Landing court drama than a dragon-fest and those were always my favorite parts of Game of Thrones. House of the Dragon delivers that in spades and, while it does little to innovate, is a solid and well structured Game of Thrones story that feels up there with the better seasons of the original series. I think also, a tighter focus this shorter book lends it is a benefit, and hopefully they do not try to spin this out in to 5 seasons.
FUSER - Harmonix [Game]
all ready to announce the great revival of Fuser, and then… They
announced it was going to end.
I wrote at length about why I love FUSER over here. Those points all still stand. But, unfortunately, now you cannot buy the game anymore on any storefront. So it is very hard to recommend. It’s still great. It’s still one of a kind and something I pop open every once in a while to jam for 30 minutes. But the fact that it is impossible to get legally is rough, no doubt about it.
It still belongs on this list because the addition of custom songs revived this game for me this year in a massive way. But now FUSER, kind of is, a dead game.
2022, hell of a year for Dead Games, huh.
Cyberpunk Edgerunners - Studio Trigger [Anime]
They made an anime in the Cyberpunk World. It works. It's pretty good! I watched it pretty quick and its fun to see, and a good showing of the Cyberpunk world that feels more like a lived in place than most of the game managed when I played it. The story doesn't do anything too surprising, but I enjoyed it.
World Cup - FIFA (ugh) [Sports]
The world cup was a blast this year. Except the fact that Denmark massively disappointed, it was one of the more memorable ones in a while. A lot of great upsets early on, and some exciting days of matches, and of course, with possibly the greatest final in living memory between Argentina and France. What a show. That cost the lives of many people and many who still who suffer under terrible conditions.
Fallout 4 Enhanced Edition - Bethesda? Well. [Modded Game]
I, or one, cannot believe that Fallout 4 is on this list, again. Ridiculous. I don’t like Fallout 4. But once again, mods can turn that game into something enjoyable. This time, the huge “Enhanced Edition” that overhauls most of Fallout 4’s systems, turns it into a very good scavenging simulator. I still entirely ignore the settlement aspects and will continue to, but I have been enjoying the occasional trek into the wasteland.
Pentiment - Obsidian Entertainment [Game]
Josh Sawyer heading a small-scoped medieval murder
mystery at Obsidian? Yes, please. I was excited the moment this was announced.
And it is just the Name of the Rose and Night in the Woods crossover it looks
Josh Sawyer is a history student and it shows—the amount of detail and nuance and character that has been breathed into this game, every character feels like they’re a part of a world that is well-researched and intricate—the fact that it also has a character gallery this large is staggering.
I love games and stories that focus on the passage of time, and this game’s depiction of a village over decades is impeccable. And of course, the central murder mystery is solid, and the detective work you do is good and wonderful and engaging. Every hour I spend in this game is a joy, and I am savoring it, slowly getting through it. I just got to Act III, and what a blast that is. Just, wow. This is the kind of game that inspires me like no other. This is the kind of game I’ve wanted forever, and it just doesn’t get made, and definitely not this well.
1899 - Baran bo Odar & Jantje Friese [TV Series]
From the creators of Dark, this show had me from the
trailer, which uses All Along The Watchtower and has people speaking in German,
French, Danish, and English.
The premise is a boat travelling to America gets a distress signal from another boat that went missing 4 months ago, and when they investigate, it is completely empty. Almost. And it just keeps going from there, unraveling into a rabbit hole that goes so much deeper than makes any sense.
It perhaps spends a little too long before it begins answering questions, and I’m still torn on whether the ending is ridiculous to the point of being stupid or brilliant but it does open up the possibility space for the next season, in a way that is hopefully similar to how Dark did. It is probably best to watch this show without the expectation that everything is going to make sense, but just let it take you on a ride.
The mix of languages trapped on a boat is also a lot of fun, even if they probably could have used it a bit more.
The Golden Enclaves - Naomi Novik [Book]
The third and final (I think?) entry in the Scholomance series I loved
last year. Like the finale of the other wizard school book series you know, they leave the
school in this one too, and its scope is thus much larger. But it also happens at a
breakneck pace and it doesn’t seem like it is able to wrap things up in time
with revelation after revelation.
It maybe ends a little too neatly for me, but it was still a great journey and a fun book.
Dwarf Fortress - Bay 12 Games [Game]
Dwarf Fortress is an almost 20 year old game. But it has now just released? For real? On Steam? It is the kind of game you have heard tons of stories about even if you’ve never played it, and likely you had not played it because it was, to most, inscrutable to actually interact with. However, now, with the Steam release, they updated the interface and the graphics so it is not possible to actually understand how to achieve goals in this game. And suddenly, this game, which is no doubt the most complex machinery of a simulation of a fictional world ever made, is accessible enough to play. This is a game that simulates a 100 years of history from the health of a chicken’s toes, to a god-like monster across the world creating a religion that destroyed a civilization. It is an emergent story generator with few equals and it is so cool that it is now a game that I would recommend to people.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery - Rian Johnson [Movie]
Late entry! This was my most anticipated movie of 2022 (and also, frankly, my only anticipated movie of 2022? I don't watch a lot of movies). Glass Onion is a blast. It is a very different kind of mystery than the first Knives Out (which is a trick you cannot really repeat, to be fair), yet it continues to be really, really good. Everyone in the cast, especially Daniel Craig, is having so much fun in these movies, and I will happily take another 5 in my lifetime. Full of fun moments and also, just a beautiful takedown of the shithead of the year.
And that's it!
I wrote less on the blog this year. I wrote an essay about the map in Elden Ring, a blog about my PhD, and a messy blog about Fuser... and that's it. Sorry about that. Not that I did not get any writing done, just none of it went up here.
I had a plan this year to write an 80.000 word book (with the intention that that was the length to shorten myself because my other long writing projects turn into 150.000+ word monstrosities.) And I... did not succeed. I only wrote about 56.000. Which is not nothing! But it's also of a first draft that'll need more work, so hey. It's okay. I also had a lot of other writing to do this year, with a Comprehensive Exam in spring and another paper at ICIDS in the fall. I am a little disappointed in myself, as I could have done it with some more routine built around it, but I only struggled to get writing done in other times than in the morning, and days where I did not have time or motivation to do it in the morning, it didn't happen. And then the schedule went off the rails.
I'm not sure what will happen to that project now. I could continue and try to finish it. But I also will need to do writing on another project, I think, and I'm not sure if double-dipping will work out. But maybe it'll also help as a daily warmup-type thing. So, who knows.
I have also been thinking about getting back to my Sunday Morning Game feature, as I do really want to finish Majora's Mask. But I just need to find another schedule for it, because the one I had when I lived in Europe simply does not work anymore. Might become a Sunday Evening Game?? We'll see.
I felt like I learned a lot this year though. Made quite a lot of progress on my PhD, was part of several great projects, and participated in the largest academic worker strike in the history of the US. This was a fast one.
2023, you better be ready.